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The classic game: Orbital

The latest entry in our classics series features a one-thumb arcade game that was out of this world: Orbital, originally released on the App Store in 2009.

Orbital in 2009

Orbital in 2009.

What was Orbital?

Orbital emerged during a golden age of one-thumb mobile games that presumably assumed your other digits were busy. These titles were designed to be accessible but deep enough to have you chase high scores for months.

But Orbital wasn’t just about reflexes. It had you fire orbs into a confined space. Each would bounce around, quickly slow to a halt, and then grow until it touched another object. You’d then need to hit any orb on the playfield five times with subsequent shots to make it explode.

Naturally, available space would quickly fill. Success hinged on mastering ricochets, as if playing a cosmic game of pool. And if a single orb touched the line of doom above your turret, that was an instant game over.

Why was it a classic?

The game was a feast for the senses, with its stunning space-age neon visuals, ambient soundtrack and robotic voiceover. But the real magic was in the distinct game modes, each of which offered a unique, engaging challenge.

‘Pure’ tested your timing with an auto-oscillating turret, forcing you to plan your ricochets well in advance. ‘Gravity’ upped the ante by having larger bodies warp the passage of your shots. ‘Supernova’ – added months after the game’s debut – was even better. It gave you full control over the turret, and exploding planets triggered chain reactions, massively upping high-score potential. And on iPhone and iPad, all these modes were available in same-device two-player as well.

Orbital on iPhone today.

Orbital on iPhone today.

Where is it now?

Launched way back in 2009, Orbital is a rare gem, in that it’s still available for (and compatible with) modern devices. Admittedly, it’s not received many updates – mainly becoming a universal app and adding support for 120Hz displays. And that means you’ll see borders around the app on newer devices. But the core gameplay remains compelling, making Orbital an enjoyable blast from the past.

Visit the Orbital website or get Orbital ($4.99/£4.99) from the App Store.